New California law targets rogue movers and brokersBy Eric Anders • Aug 21st, 2012 • Category: *RELOCATION NEWS UPDATES*, Consumer Protection, MovingScams
As the peak season winds down, full-service household goods movers all across the country should cast their eyes west and take a gander at a new assembly bill that the California State Legislature sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature last week.
The legislation is particularly noteworthy because of the way the lawmakers have addressed the increase in consumer complaints about the murky issue of household goods move brokers and brokerage agreements.
Assembly Bill 2118 was crafted with the help of reputable movers throughout state has the support of both the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Moving and Storage Association and its members.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has regulatory authority over public utilities, including transportation companies. Under the state's Household Goods Carriers Act, household goods (HHG) carriers are subject to the jurisdiction and control of the commission.
The act currently prohibits a HHG carrier from engaging, or attempting to engage, in the business of the transportation of used household goods and personal effects, by motor vehicle over any public highway in the state, including advertising, soliciting, offering, or entering into an agreement, without a permit issued by the commission authorizing transportation entirely within the state, or a valid operating authority issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, for interstate transportation.
Beefed-up New Rules
AB 2118 would expand the definition of a household goods carrier to include a household goods carrier that engages in the licensed permitted or unlicensed unpermitted transportation for compensation or hire as a business by means of a motor vehicle or motor vehicles being used in the transportation of used household goods and personal effects over any public highway in this state.
The bill requires a broker, as defined, to be considered a household goods carrier. It also prohibits a HHG carrier from arranging, by any means or media, as a broker for the transportation of used household goods and personal effects.
Additionally, the bill requires the CPUC to establish rules permitting electronic transactions, as specified and would authorize specified documents to be in electronic form, if agreed upon by the carrier and the customer.
If approved by the Governor, the act would require a household goods carrier to add a prominent link to the carrier's Internet Web site that directs consumers to an Internet Web site hosted by the commission that promotes consumer rights and protection.
The existing law requires telephone companies and related entities, as specified, upon demand and the order of a magistrate, to provide the commission, or an authorized official of the commission, access to the name and address of the subscriber to a telephone number being used by an unlicensed household goods carrier.
The bill approved by the legislature requires telephone companies, as prescribed, to provide this access to the commission as specified above, without the written consent of the subscriber.
Fines and Penalties Increased
Under the current Household Goods Carriers Act, every household goods carrier and every officer, director, agent, or employee of any household goods carrier who violates or who fails to comply with, or who procures, aids, or abets any violation by any household goods carrier of the act, or who fails to obey, observe, or comply with any order, decision, rule, regulation, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission, or of any operating permit issued to any household goods carrier, or who procures, aids, or abets any household goods carrier in its failure to obey, observe, or comply with any such order, decision, rule, regulation, direction, demand, requirement, or operating permit, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and if the violation is not willful, is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment in the county jail, as prescribed, or both.
If approved, this bill would increase the fine for this misdemeanor to not more than $2,500. The bill would also provide that a fine shall be not less than $1,000 for a violation involving operating or holding one's self as a household goods carrier without a permit.
AB 2118 states that a household goods carrier's unauthorized, unlicensed, or otherwise unlawful infringement of another corporation's or person's trademark, service mark, collective mark, certification mark, or trade name that has been registered, as specified, may be assessed a fine not to exceed $2,500, as provided.
It also provides that a household goods carrier that falsifies permit status, membership in an association, or location is liable for a civil penalty of not more than $2,500 per day of violation. Because a violation of the Household Goods Carriers Act or an order of the commission is a crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program by expanding the scope of a crime.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement. This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Movers and lawmakers in other states would be wise to consider similar changes in the way that California has chosen to define and administer move brokerage responsibilities under this new legislation.
AB2118 was Approved by Governor Jerry Brown and filed with the California Secretary of State on September 25, 2012.
State crackdown on HHG brokers proposed – RELO Roundtable
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